1b And be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Attempts had been made by false teachers and false brethren, who were the agents of Satan, to deprive the Galatian Christians of their Christian liberty. It was apparent to Paul that some in the Galatian church were influenced by the false teachers who instructed them to return to the ceremonial observances of the Jews. So Paul warned the Galatians to stop turning back to different forms of legalism and self-efforts which would ensnare their souls. The verb he used in his admonition, “be not entangled again”, is a present imperative with a negative particle; and thus serves as a strong command to stop an act which is already in process. He wanted them to act immediately to stop being persuaded by the false teachers of ceremonial observances. Christ’s life and atoning death on the cross have accomplished all that is needed for our salvation.
Paul emphasised that it was Christ Himself—not our own merits or our own deeds—that set us free from our sins and condemnation. Paul had clearly taught that it is not by our works that we are redeemed, but by the righteousness of God that Christ provides. As Paul said in Romans 10:3-4, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”
Paul further warned them that the doctrine of ceremonial observation is a “yoke of bondage”. The apostle Peter also used this same image in his rebuke of those who persuaded the believers to observe the Jewish ceremonies. He chided them, saying, “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15:10)
A yoke is an emblem of slavery or bondage. Farmers place the yokes on the necks of their oxen to control them while they plough the land. It adds unpleasant burdens and restrictions to the creatures. The religious legalists, by their insistence on observation of Jewish rites, were trying to place a yoke of bondage on Christians who were already liberated from the yoke of sin and curse of the Law. Christ died to set us free from everything that enslaved our souls. We should not go under the burden of anything or anyone to be saved. Let us follow our Liberator, Christ, alone.